Watch Dogs PS4 hands on – delays can’t stop us finding new information
Compared to the industrial area of the first section, the next slice of the demo is in the heart of Chicago – Loop, Sears/Willis Tower and all. And I’m free to explore it at my leisure. Without a set mission, I follow a series of wall-mounted wireless repeaters to a home network and an ATM PIN number, testing out the game’s climbing mechanics. It isn’t surprising that initial speculation wondered if Watch Dogs used Assassin’s Creed’s Anvil engine, but they play quite differently. Pearce is fairly agile, but he isn’t a ninja.
However, before I can clean out my victim’s account, a notification appears: my own phone is being hacked by another player. Disguised as a regular citizen, that player has to stay close to me without being detected. If the hack completes another timer begins, counting down to the corruption of my phone’s operating system.
I then have to kill him, chasing first on foot and then by car. Driving past traffic lights I attempt to slow him up by changing them, then switch from car to motorbike before running him to ground by a raised bridge. The Chicago River bridges can be raised and lowered to slow pursuit, along with other methods – during the chase I accidentally impale my own car on a set of pop-up bollards, to general hilarity. Having two human players in the world, both able to hack systems, adds a real sense of gleeful chaos to proceedings.
When not being harassed by other player-controlled hackers, I’m able to explore the game’s Vigilante system. As Pearce monitors the city’s information data, potential crimes appear on his mini-map. In my demo, a gun store hold-up was set up, although in the game crimes will take place semi-randomly.
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The first time I arrive at the scene too late to save the shopkeeper, and the subsequent firefight spills out into the alleyway behind the store. Trying the same scene again, I shoot the robber before he can kill the owner, followed by his henchmen before they reach the door. In the full game, that would change the media’s view of Pearce, as well as how people on the street react to him.
With RPG elements, a darker tone and
the improvisational possibilities of the
hacking system Watch Dogs is set to
deliver on its huge open-world promise
From this first play, it looks as if Watch Dogs is set to deliver on its huge open-world promise. While immediately familiar as a modern-day sandbox action-adventure with light RPG elements, the darker tone and the improvisational possibilities of the hacking system could be powerful plus points in the fight to be the first major new franchise of the next console generation.